Embed support into the digital solution design

A level of always-on support can be built into the app or digital service in ways that do not require human intervention:

  • Provide information-presentation support in the form of help pages, FAQs, tool tips and tutorials. Increasingly, apps that have new sections or first-time users offer on-screen animations and pointers to explain how to use the various features. This can be especially useful to low-skilled and low-literate users. The 3-2-1 Service is trialling a game to teach first-time users how IVR works before they actually use it to access the service.

  • Provide machine-automated support, such as auto-correct of text, auto-suggest or auto- complete of words being entered – features already found in smartphones. Such features often use artificial intelligence (AI), which increases their ability to provide support the more they are used.

  • Potentially use the recent addition of chatbots into instant messaging services such as Facebook Messenger and Telegram, which have seen machine-automated support provided in a more interactive way. Users with some reading and digital skills may benefit from the conversation-style support provided.

Maximize the human elements in training and support

Training and support provided by individuals gives a human face to technology interaction. In the projects featured in the UNESCO-Pearson case studies, CHWs, volunteers and project team members provide face-to-face support to end-users. To maximize the human element, including for raising awareness and increasing uptake, the following approaches are recommended:

  • Provide helplines that users can call for support. Chipatala cha pa Foni (CCPF), subject of a UNESCO-Pearson case study, links rural communities in Malawi with health systems by allowing villagers to call a medical advice service. Seventy-five per cent of calls are resolved without having to refer the caller to a health facility, saving the caller the time and cost associated with travel to a clinic, and alleviating the burden on poorly resourced health facilities.

  • Leverage existing human networks for tech support and raising awareness. Many of the UNESCO-Pearson case-study projects work through existing agent networks, or draw on close groupings that include family and household members. For example, when the Rainforest Alliance piloted its Farmer Training App to encourage sustainable farming practices in Guatemala, the children ofthe farmers stepped up as tech supporters, teaching their parents how to navigate the app. Encouraging trusted and champion users to become early adopters and recommend a digital solution to their peers can be a powerful way to increase uptake.

  • Build local support capacity. Infomediaries already known and active in the community, including librarians and community centre staff, can be trained to provide tech support as well as on-the-spot training.

  • Where it is desired to change users’ behaviour, ongoing engagement is often necessary. Equally important is messaging that clearly links the use of digital products and services to the aspirations and motivations of users. In the case of the Read to Kids initiative in New Delhi (Crane and Smith, 2018), whose aim was for parents and caregivers to read stories to children from their mobile phones, many users stopped or reduced their use of the app soon after initial training. They only used it regularly after a programme of sustained additional training based on messaging that clearly connected the benefits of reading with parental aspirations.

Build local support capacity amongst existing human resources

Nano Ganesh is a mobile phone-based remote control and monitoring system for agricultural water pumps in India. Often rural farmers experience delays in support services because of the limited resources available. Ossian Agro, the company behind Nano Ganesh, has thus developed a community-based model to train local technicians in installations, repairs and technical support skills to reduce the bottleneck in system delivery. Further, Ossian Agro has created support tools such as orientation multimedia, operating manuals and live video support in local languages for farmers and technicians.

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Mobilize the community for participation

For Mobile Vaani, community participation is essential to the success of the media platform. In order to increase community uptake of their digital solution, the organization developed a participation model consisting of a network of local clubs, led by over 300 community reporters and other volunteers interested in the Mobile Vaani initiative. These groups are trained in participatory content generation and are responsible for widening the user base in their regions. The clubs oversee the quality assurance of their content providers to ensure a vibrant and engaging user experience.

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